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Remarks by Minister Lewis - Press Conference Hurricane Preparedness 2020
May 31, 2020 - 4:53:24 PM

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The Hon. Iram Lewis

Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction

Opening Remarks


Press Conference

Hurricane Preparedness 2020:

“Building a Disaster Resilient Bahamas”

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Good Afternoon,

I want to thank all of you for joining us today at this press conference on Hurricane Preparedness 2020: “Building a Disaster Resilient Bahamas”.

We are here to mark the beginning of the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season, which runs from June 1st to November 30th and to urge all public and private entities to take action to ensure that they are prepared.

Today, the National Emergency Management Agency, (NEMA) which falls under the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction, along with other Government agencies and utilities will provide you with updates on plans related to the 2020 hurricane season.

I note, that the destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian last year is a reminder to all, that it only takes a direct hit by one hurricane to cause widespread destruction to our country.

Dorian was the strongest hurricane of record to make landfall in The Bahamas and unquestionably our worst natural disaster. It will take years for us to fully recover, considering the economic loss and damage to infrastructure totaling an estimated $3.4 billion dollars.

The hurricane contributed to the loss of many lives – whose families are currently grieving. As I would have communicated in previous forums, and I reiterate, that The Bahamas grieve with them. Moreover, I note the commitment of the Government in rebuilding Abaco, the Abaco Cays and Grand Bahama. Work in this regard is progressing steadily.

We have studied the lessons of Dorian and note that strengthening our systems and making them more resilient are key components of the policy efforts that are being led by my ministry. The Government is committed to building back with resiliency and incorporating green and smart technology. Reconstruction work is being led by the Disaster Reconstruction Authority (the DRA), which is also part of my Ministry.

The COVID-19 pandemic, and necessary emergency measures implemented by the Government to suppress the spread of the corona virus and save lives, have understandably slowed national preparation efforts for this hurricane season. In fact plans were in place for a national week of activities, centered on hurricane preparedness - some activities included school visits, and live hurricane drills. Nevertheless, with the use of technology many of the activities were addressed in meetings with Island Administrators and focal persons, who represented government agencies that are attached to the Emergency Support Function (ESF) body. With the recently announced phased opening up of the country we are now able to fine tune our preparations and get back to full-paced planning and implementation efforts.

It is noteworthy that forecasters have predicted an above average hurricane season this year. In recent years we have witnessed the effects of climate change on tropical weather systems, where warmer seas are now giving rise to severe natural disasters.

Storms that were once categorized as one (1) or two (2) are now regarded as super-storms in category five (5) and above. On landing these storms cause death and catastrophic damage.

Disaster preparedness is everybody's business. That is, it is the responsibility of each and every one of us, inclusive of the NEMA, the DRA, other government agencies, communities, private sector, civic society and households, to be ready, so as to ensure that the impact on our lives, our properties and our livelihoods is minimized.

Partnership between government, private sector, communities, civil society and individual households in preparing for the Hurricane Season is critically important. Let us be realistic, the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, Management & Reconstruction by itself simply cannot undertake preparedness for everyone in The Bahamas. Yes, it is true that part of our mandate is to coordinate preparedness activities at the national and community level, but that can only be effective if all of us recognize and perform our roles in this partnership.

I take this opportunity to call on each and every agency of The Bahamas Government and individuals within these agencies to prepare your organization and your personal space within these organizations to reduce the impact from hurricanes and to facilitate continuity of operations in the aftermath of impact.

To our communities throughout the archipelago, you are an important part of our partnership for preparedness and I employ you to examine closely your community plans and get ready to undertake the activities that have been planned to reduce your vulnerability. Rehearse your evacuation procedures. Make sure you have the requirements deemed necessary for safety and to recover from the impact of the storm.

To our individual households, please understand that your role in planning for the upcoming hurricane season is vitally important, as there is much that you can do to reduce the impact on your family and your property. Simple measures, such as checking for weaknesses in your roof, cracks in your windows, removing overhanging trees, keeping drains on your property clean and making alternative plans of what you will do and how you will do it in the event of a hurricane, will most certainly prove useful in reducing your risk and making you a true partner in the holistic efforts in building our resilience to disasters.

As partners let us continue to explore opportunities by which we can transfer some of our disaster risks through tools such as micro-insurance and by so doing, enhance our engagement in taking responsibility for our own risks through strong, reliable and committed partnerships.

While the Government and other agencies today will speak of ongoing work, I want to emphasize to the public the need for you to start making personal preparations for the season now.

Please give them your attention and follow the advice they give. Proper preparation saves lives and lessens loss of property.

In advance of the presentations and queries, I wish to express gratitude to Ms. Stephanie Bowers, Charge de Affairs, in the US Embassy and the staff from the United States Northern Command, in particular Commander Kevin Self. These individuals have been instrumentals, in assisting the Ministry, to ensure that issues are addressed to mitigate destruction from a hurricane and to respond rapidly in the aftermath of the storm.  

Our prayer is for a quiet and uneventful 2020 hurricane season but if faced with challenges that we are able to withstand any level or category of storm.  May God continue to preserve us, especially those still recovering from the impact of hurricane Dorian.

Be prepared and may God bless The Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

I thank you and good afternoon.

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